Last week I returned from the 3 Day Start-Up intensive.
This event ran 40 Griffith PhD candidates through an entrepreneurial practical intensive on how to develop a start-up business.
I needed a little time between the 3DS event and posting about it to decompress, recharge and digest all that went on – and I am glad I did.
It certainly ‘intensive’. The actual content and structure was well thought out and very useful, the challenge was in the level of input and quality of work you wanted to achieve. This plus an added pressure of going market research, having a round-robin of mentors consult with you as you are preparing a pitch and the overall organising, synthesising and production of a real-time sales pitch with a team that you have never met before – (*phew*).
3DS – 5 Reflections
Rather than giving you everything that happened, here are the top 5 things I got out of the whole experience:
1. Working with a new team on developing my Campus Bike Start-up idea.
After a few warm-up activities, the room was invited to come up and pitch an idea for a possible business. There were about 25-30 ideas. In the spirit of participation, I contributed an idea called Campus Bike. We then had an anonymous vote for the best 6 to carry on developing for the rest of the course through to final investor pitch. There were some great ideas. So imagine my surprise when Campus Bike was voted as a finalist. Campus Bike ended up with a team of 5, of which I was the (un)official manager of. Managing this team (and myself) for the duration of the intensive was challenging, interesting, rewarding and surprising for a number of reasons. I got a lot out of working with my team, and learn a lot about working with new people (what worked and what didn’t) as well as reaffirming some home truths about dynamics, management, goal setting, leadership and individual/group effectiveness.
2. Useful frameworks
The Lean Canvas was a preparation framework that was presented to us on the first night as a way of starting to distill and tease out our start-up idea into more detail. As a structure fanatic and a big fan of using visual organisers to clarify complex ideas and document progress, I liked this model. It is easy to use, comprehensive, helped focus our team and meant that we a clear out line of considerations. It was a very effective tool and once completed, we received feedback we could the incorporate and develop in next stage ideation.
Source: Running Lean by Ash Maurya (p18)
I was surprised at how affected I was by the environs. It was held at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus in a large room of 40 people (most I did not know), run by American Facilitators, had long hours (9 am – 10 pm, food was provided, but you work while you eat) and was a very energy/concentration intensive process (including added daily peaks in extra stress for pitch prep and presentation). I was also staying at a colleague’s house, (which was so lovely, but not my normal home and bed), so I did not sleep well at all. I was away from my usual productive morning routine and was grumpy for not being able to have my bike to go for a ride and release some tension and get some fresh air for three days. Combined with being run down, overtired to start with, having some serious IT issues and complications with PhD and one of my classes back in Brisbane, meant that I was most certainly not in prime form. In recognising this, I made some significant changes to my approach to make sure I minimised stressors and was able to monitor myself physically, emotionally and mentally. But it was a big ask and pretty draining – so I learnt quite a bit about managing myself in challenging and new environs and what was okay and what was not.
4. Working the pitches
I gained a lot of insights and ideas watching my group and the other work on – and develop – their start-up ideas as a progression over time. At the end of each day, we pitched, which meant that you could see the development of the idea and what decisions, changes, embellishments and omissions were made. I found this fascinating to watch. As a teacher, I am curious about the learning process and seeing how each pitch morphed and changed – sometimes positively, sometimes not. I found these changes to be super revealing. It showed not just about what worked, or how to apply the process/business concepts we were being exposed to, but more interestingly, it divulged more about the team members themselves and how they interpreted and integrated new content.
Source: Running Lean by Ash Maurya (p18)
5. Motivated to initiate a start up
I was super impressed with the logistic and coordination for this event. Each day we had teams of local business people, entrepreneurs, advisors and mentors streaming in and out – all with super interesting ideas, suggestions, insights and advice. The mentor consultations were invaluable. The quality of guidance and depth of knowledge was excellent. Our discussions were constructive, and the mentor’s input pushed us to consider ideas that we had not previously accounted for. It reminded me of my time working in business in Sydney and what a buzz it can be working with like-minded passionate entrepreneurial – it was very energising to get a taste of that again. The event also served its purpose of encouraging the PhD cohort present to see start-up business as a very viable opportunity.
I consider this event to be a success. It was hard work but was also a very useful experience. I was impressed with my team and the other teams as well. The organisers did a terrific job of managing the time, content and mentors – kudos and thanks!
As a clincher, I found out after we had finished that 3 out of the 6 teams have decided to go ahead with their business idea that they had been working on and will be actually taking their idea to market. Awesome!!